• Use of GM cotton linked to rise in aphid numbers

    In an unexpected trade-off, the cultivation of cotton that has been genetically engineered to reduce caterpillar damage by producing its own insecticide has been linked to higher numbers of another pest - aphids. Previous studies had linked the increase in aphids to reduced insecticide use by farmers cultivating Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton. >> Read the Full Article
  • Synthetic Biology

    A new paper says a discussion on the benefits and risks of synthetic biology to conservation is necessary. The potential exists to re-creating extinct species and to create genetically modified super-species. An upcoming conference at Clare College in Cambridge, England, will examine the nexus of synthetic biology and conservation What effects will the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology have on the conservation of nature? The ecological and ethical challenges stemming from this question will require a new and continuing dialogue between members of the synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation communities, according to authors of a new paper. According to the paper, the field of synthetic biology—a discipline that utilizes chemically synthesized DNA to create organisms that address human needs—is developing rapidly, with billions of dollars being invested annually. Many extol the virtues of synthetic biology as providing potential solutions to human health problems, food security, and energy needs. Advocates also see in synthetic biology tools for combating climate change and water deficits. Critics warn that genetically modified organisms could pose a danger to native species and natural ecosystems. >> Read the Full Article
  • Agricultural NOx

    NOx. such as nitric oxide, comes from many sources. It is a misconception that it is only the result of combustion devices. There are natural sources such as thunderstorms and ordinary plant life. Changes in agricultural practices could reduce soil emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and the atmospheric pollutant nitric oxide, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Davis. "Agriculture is the main source of nitrous oxide globally, so this study is a starting point to help us understand how to manage and control it," said UC Davis professor of soil biogeochemistry William Horwath, whose lab conducted the study. >> Read the Full Article
  • Urea may have competition - Human urine

    Human urine is superior to urea, a common nitrogen-rich mineral fertiliser, according to the results of a study carried out in a farmer’s field outside Nepal's capital city. Researchers who tested the effects of applying different combinations of urine, compost and urea on sweet pepper, Capsicum annuum, found that urine synergises best with compost. Urine for the study was sourced from mobile public toilets in the city and compost prepared from cattle manure. >> Read the Full Article
  • Using 'Biochar' To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    'Biochar' is the name for charcoal when it is used as a soil amendment. People add charcoal to land in order to increase soil fertility and agricultural productivity. In addition to these benefits, researchers are now saying that biochar has potential to mitigate climate change as it can help sequester carbon and thus cut our greenhouse gas emissions. >> Read the Full Article
  • Is Hemp Farming the next Green Job growth industry

    Though Obama has frequently spoken of the need for more "green jobs," he has failed to acknowledge the inherent environmental advantages associated with a curious plant called hemp. One of the earliest domesticated crops, hemp is incredibly versatile and can be utilized for everything from food, clothing, rope, paper and plastic to even car parts. In an era of high unemployment, hemp could provide welcome relief to the states and help to spur the transition from antiquated and polluting manufacturing jobs to the new green economy. What is more, in lieu of our warming world and climate change, the need for environmentally sustainable industries like hemp has never been greater. Given all of these benefits, why have Obama and the political establishment chosen to remain silent? The explanation has to do with retrograde and backward beliefs which have been hindering environmental progress for a generation. A biological cousin of marijuana, hemp contains minute amounts of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical. Even though advocates say one would have to smoke huge amounts of hemp to get high, the plant occupies a highly dubious legal status in the U.S. During the 1970s, Congress declared hemp a "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act, ridiculously lopping the plant in the same category as heroin. Though the authorities allow farmers to petition the federal government to grow hemp, the Drug Enforcement Administration or D.E.A. has proven incredibly resistant to such licenses and for all intents and purposes the crop has remained illegal [ironically enough, however, the U.S. imports many hemp-related products from abroad]. >> Read the Full Article
  • Loss of wild pollinators could threaten food security

    The loss of wild pollinators from agricultural landscapes could threaten global crop yields, a study has found. Led by Lucas Garibaldi, an assistant professor at the National University of Río Negro in Argentina, a team of researchers compared fields containing many wild pollinators - mostly insects - with those containing few. They studied 41 crop systems across all continents except Antarctica to understand how the loss of wild pollinators impacts crop production. >> Read the Full Article
  • Majority of US Streams and Rivers are in 'Poor Condition,' says EPA Survey

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released the results of a comprehensive survey that looks at the health of thousands of stream and river miles across the country, and frankly the results are not very encouraging. The survey was conducted as part of an ongoing effort by the EPA to determine which rivers and streams are healthy, which are improving, and which require more protection and restoration efforts. >> Read the Full Article
  • Achieving a Sustainable Food System with Organic Farming

    Despite a slight decline between 2009 and 2010, since 1999 the global land area farmed organically has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service (www.worldwatch.org). Regions with the largest certified organic agricultural land in 2010 were Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations (12.1 million hectares); Europe (10 million hectares); and Latin America (8.4 million hectares), write report authors Catherine Ward and Laura Reynolds. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Looming Threat of Water Scarcity

    Some 1.2 billion people—almost a fifth of the world—live in areas of physical water scarcity, while another 1.6 billion face what can be called economic water shortage. The situation is only expected to worsen as population growth, climate change, investment and management shortfalls, and inefficient use of existing resources restrict the amount of water available to people, according to Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs Online service (www.worldwatch.org). It is estimated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, with almost half of the world living in conditions of water stress. Water scarcity has several definitions. Physical scarcity occurs when there is not enough water to meet demand; its symptoms include severe environmental degradation, declining groundwater, and unequal water distribution. Economic water scarcity occurs when there is a lack of investment and proper management to meet the demand of people who do not have the financial means to use existing water sources; the symptoms in this case normally include poor infrastructure.Large parts of Africa suffer from economic water scarcity. >> Read the Full Article